This blog reviews the latest products, plants and innovations in gardening. It also provides a link for my many gardening friends who are members of the GardenMessenger and Seedmessenger Yahoo groups and their sub-groups that I moderate.

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Location: Australia

I am a semi-retired UK botanical garden curator and former international horticultural consultant, who has worked extensively in Europe, the Middle East, North America and Australia. I spend part of the year in Australia and part in Europe, mainly due to family and work commitments. I earn my living from writing and editing Internet copy, articles and books. I have written over fifty books on gardening and have been translated into twenty-four different languages. I am a former UK Garden Writer of the Year and a previous Quill & Trowel Award Winner from the Garden Writer’s Association of America. I am interested in developing gardening communities on the Internet and I manage the popular GardenMessenger Yahoo group, along with its various sub-groups like PondMessenger and SeedMessenger. I also edit International Water Gardener and its associated regional web-sites.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Happy Birthday, Glamis and Tulips

Happy Birthday Ma’am

Happy birthday today to Queen Elizabeth II. Eighty years old and still doing a great job promoting Britain. Whatever views you have on the monarchy it is difficult to dispute that she has been one of the hardest working and most dignified heads of state of the past century. I was fortunate to be introduced to the good lady on one occasion, at a special function at the Linnean Society in London. She was very gracious and attentive, but of much shorter stature than I had imagined. I am not very tall, but she was considerably shorter than me. It is strange how seeing someone regularly on television can distort your view of how tall they are.

Gardening is an interest of Queen Elizabeth and she supports and takes an interest in the work of the Royal Horticultural Society. She always attends the Chelsea Flower Show on preview day. Her mother, the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, was an even more avid gardener and loved flowers of all kinds. I was fortunate to be the horticultural adviser to her ancestral home on the occasion of her 100th birthday. Special celebrations and centenary plantings were made at Glamis Castle, Angus in Scotland, to commemorate the occasion.
Glamis Castle

Glamis Castle was the childhood home of the Queen Mother who was often referred to, especially in plants that were named for her, as Elizabeth of Glamis. She spent her time as a child in the gardens at Glamis playing with her brother Sir David Bowes-Lyon. He too became an influential figure in horticulture, becoming president of the Royal Horticultural Society between 1953 and 1961. His contribution to horticulture through the Royal Horticultural Society at that time is immeasurable. He was certainly a steady hand at the helm of a society which was about to see enormous changes to the way in which it operated.

Sir David had two children, Davina and Simon, Davina becoming the Countess of Stair at Castle Kennedy, Stranraer in Scotland. Those of you who read this blog regularly, will know that I was for a time gardens’ manager at Castle Kennedy, so in fact the Countess of Stair was my boss. She is a tremendously enthusiastic gardener and has been responsible for many developments at Castle Kennedy. Her brother, Sir Simon Bowes Lyon, oversees another well known garden - St. Pauls, Waldenbury, Hertfordshire in the home counties of England - the birth place of the Queen Mother. So I guess I have had some tenuous royal gardening links over the years.

Dutch tulips

One connection though, that I am proud to have made, and in no way was influenced by a social structure that is still very much part of British life, is the naming of a tulip for the Queen Mother for her centenary year. I take pride in having initiated the idea of a Tulip called Elizabeth of Glamis, and the letter from Clarence House from her royal secretary giving permission for the naming is a prized possession that one day I will pass on to the bulb museum in Lisse, Holland.

It came about when I was dining at a country pub in Yorkshire in the north of England with an old friend and colleague, Frans Roozen of the International Flower Bulb Centre in The Netherlands. It was a social occasion, but also included the discussion of ideas for bulb use and the generic promotion of Dutch bulbs amongst gardeners. At that time one of my responsibilities was for advice to the Dutch bulb industry on consumer gardening in the UK. I was also working at the same time with the Glamis Castle staff on the centenary garden celebrations, so what more appropriate than to consider naming a tulip for the good lady? Frans downed his last drop of red wine and announced that if I could get royal permission for the naming he would find a fine new tulip from the breeders of Holland worthy of the name.

All went well, and in due time a celebration was held at Glamis Castle, with the Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne as host, to launch the lovely pink flowered tulip to the world. Launching tulips by the Dutch bulb industry has a traditional format. This includes making a presentation of a basket of highly polished bulbs to a representative of the person, organisation or place being named, in this case the Earl as the Queen Mother’s representative. At the ceremony the tulips are also "baptized" with champagne, and a bunch of the flowers, that have been especially forced for the celebration, are also presented to the host. Two beautiful hand created certificates are produced for signing by the dignitaries present, one for the Dutch bulb industry archives and the other the recipient of the bulbs. A great celebration.

Happy Gardening.



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Photos: Queen Elizabeth,Glamis Castle

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